J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is bringing back appliances after a 30-year absence.
The pilot program will be introduced in 22 stores beginning on Feb. 1. The retailer said the reentry into appliances is aimed at improving its home department sales. The initial markets will be in San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa, Fla. Each pilot location will showcase from 90 to 150 appliance models in a dedicated space staffed by trained associates and displayed in lifestyle vignettes to “help customers visualize how it could look in their homes.” The retailer said it will carry a range of kitchen and laundry options at various price points from GE to Hotpoint, LG and Samsung.
The decision comes at a time when more Millennials are entering the real estate market, the company said. Simultaneously, consumer expenditures on larger ticket items such as appliances and furniture have outpaced spending on apparel. The retailer said it conducted third-party consumer research in which respondents said they thought the inclusion of the category was a “natural extension” of the company’s home business, and that the availability of appliances would “entice them” to visit J.C. Penney more often.
Marvin Ellison, chief executive officer of J.C. Penney, said, “Our research shows that the female consumer is the key decision-maker in the appliance purchase process. Recognizing that over 70 percent of our shoppers are women, we’re going to improve the way customers shop for appliances by building an emotional connection with the female shopper who already trusts J.C. Penney to furnish her home and wardrobe.”
Ellison said the company will listen to customer feedback and learn from its pilot operations over the next few months. He said that while sales in the company’s home business has improved, it remains one of the least productive areas in the store.
There are plans to make a “broad assortment of major appliances” available at jcp.com beginning this spring. And the retailer said it would leverage its JCPenney credit card and JCP Rewards program to give customers “advantages” to help customers afford their purchase, although it didn’t go into any specific details.
The disclosure of its plans to reenter the appliance category follows the appointment of Joe McFarland executive vice president of stores. Effective immediately, McFarland will lead the operations of all 1,000 J.C. Penney stores, and his responsibilities will include implementation and support of initiatives such as same-day pickup, in-store jcp.com fulfillment and improvement of sales productivity. He also has been charged with promoting a service culture across the entire stores organization, the company said.